Memorial Day 2012

The US Code (36 USC §116) designates Memorial Day as the last Monday in May which this year falls on May 28. The first national celebration of Memorial Day took place May 30, 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday originated in 1868 as General John A. Logan of the Union Army issued General Order Number 11, designating May 30 as a memorial day. He declared it to be “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” In 1888, 25 Stat. 516 designated May 30 as Decoration Day. In the 20th Century, it became Memorial Day and was extended to honor all those who died in American wars. On June 28, 1968, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-363, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating national holidays including Memorial Day on Mondays. The law took effect on January 1, 1971 changing the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May.

In every session of Congress since 1989, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), a World War II Medal of Honor winner, has introduced legislation to restore Memorial Day to May 30. This year, in introducing S.70, he said “In our effort to accommodate many Americans by making Memorial Day the last Monday in May, we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation. My bill would restore Memorial Day to May 30 and authorize our flag to fly at half-mast on that day. . . . This legislation would help restore the recognition our veterans deserve for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our Nation.” (2011 Congressional Record S181) Memorial Day observance has diminished over the years and most Americans have forgotten its meaning. The graves of the fallen are too often ignored and neglected. Most people no longer remember proper flag etiquette for the day. NYC has three parades: the Little Neck–Douglaston parade in Queens, the largest of its kind; Brooklyn’s 145th annual Memorial Day Parade (one of the oldest in the US dating back to 1867) at Third Avenue and 87th Street; and Manhattan’s smaller parade in Inwood at Broadway and Dyckman Street.